Early intervention is about getting additional effective support to children and families who need it in order to prevent long-term damaging outcomes. Throughout my career working in the children and family sector, I have championed early intervention and seen the positive impact of intervening early to stop problems becoming difficult to reverse.
I was therefore delighted to be appointed the chair of the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) in November last year. Having been a member of the original advisory council that helped set up EIF, I have been involved with the organisation from its origins.
EIF is a charity and one of the Government's 'what works centres'. It was founded in July 2013 by Graham Allen MP following his report for the Government, written jointly with Iain Duncan Smith, on early intervention, which included a recommendation to set up EIF.
EIF advocates early intervention to policy makers and politicians, such as at their upcoming national conference in February where the secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan MP, and the shadow secretary of state, Tristram Hunt MP, will be speaking.
It is clear that there can be substantial savings to the public purse from investing earlier rather than paying for failure, and long-term benefits to society and individuals.
To learn lessons from those actually implementing early intervention on the ground, EIF is working closely with 20 local authorities and their partners across the country, supporting each of these communities by providing bespoke expertise, advice and evidence. EIF is also working with the Home Office to provide support to several places on their work into preventing gang and youth violence.
Early intervention is not just about the early years and EIF focuses on conception to early adulthood. The early years are, however, a crucial opportunity to intervene to make a difference. EIF recently published a report, Getting It Right For Families, that focuses on the ways in which early years practitioners can work more effectively together. Examples of promising practice across the country included Luton's Flying Start key workers, highly trained generalists who work alongside midwives to support families.
In seeking to improve the evidence base of early intervention to encourage evidence-based social policy locally and nationally, EIF conducts 'what works reviews'. Last year, it published a report called Early Intervention in Domestic Violence and Abuse, looking at the impact on children of witnessing domestic violence and abuse and the intergenerational consequences.
This evidence on what works, what does not work and what is promising in early intervention is also provided in an online guidebook to allow commissioners, practitioners and others to search for programmes to address outcomes ranging from supporting children's mental well-being to preventing youth crime in adolescents.
I am thrilled to be involved with the organisation as it continues to develop in the coming years. In the run up to the general election, EIF will seek to encourage all the political parties to invest in early intervention.
It will also be working with local communities who are grappling with substantial reductions to their budgets to show the long-term benefits of maintaining early intervention.
Despite some substantial challenges, with the goal to break intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, EIF is blazing a trail, ensuring that early intervention continues to be firmly on the agenda.